Sand Based Greens vs. Modified XGD Greens

 In Classic Golf Architecture, Donald Ross, Golf Course Capital Improvements, Golf Drainage, Golf Infrastructure Improvements, Greens Drainage, Greens Regrassing

My recent travels have brought up a hot and relevant topic that is a recurring theme every year around this time as many clubs have suffered through another challenging summer with their old pushup greens. Now, suffering economy aside, lets look at some rough numbers:

 i) Sand Greens will run you a minimum of $7/sqft, this does not include repairing haul roads that will occur with even the most high flotation equipment out there, your contractor is not going to use helicopters and core out the green and haul out 8000 tons of material and haul back in another 8000 tons without any haul road repair. Someone tried to tell me that with their equipment there is no haul road repair. My retort back to them was, that it must be expensive to maintain that helicopter fleet.

ii) Modified XGD Greens will run you around $3/sqft, this includes a Classic XGD Greens Drainage Install and fumigation and regrassing to a modern stand of bentgrass.

Well, with sand greens then you have roughly 60% more cost, so for that money I could get sand greens that would last forever right? The suggested life of a sand green may be from 15 years to infinity, if properly managed. The suggested life of an XGD green is only 10 years???, according to a highly respected turf consultant, OK then why are our oldest greens performing admirably 20 years after an XGD installation? Beats me, and by the way our 20 year old installs are performing well without a regrass to a modern bentgrass, so they are 75% less cost than a new sand green.

Why would you take a bulldozer to this:

Charles River Country Club said absolutely not, and they have never looked back, and they have not regrassed either, because the poa bent combo is now easier to manage with consistent soil moisture control.
Also, a main factor to any club is golf downtime, and course closure, and ultimately loss of revenue. Let’s compare three options on this:
1) Stand alone XGD installation, 5 weeks and there is no course closure at all, only a single green closure during the 5 week install, which equals no revenue loss.
2)XGD install and regrass, depending on location, late August to June course closure, there is revenue loss here, but the busiest part of the golf season is virtually uninterrupted
3)Full green core outs to new sand greens will include closure from June to June, due to the time it will take to core and rebuild entire putting surfaces. In this case you can kiss goodbye an entire year of revenue.

Keep in mind, XGD Systems is owned by TDIGolf , a national golf course restoration company who have rebuilt several hundred sand greens over their 20 year existence, and who by the way have been booked up through 2012 back in late July. So, I considered this opinion fairly impartial as both companies just want to restore classic golf, be it with sand greens or XGD.

I will conclude this lengthy essay with this statement from a client recently on this very subject who has classic old pushup greens, in which the club is wrestling with the options I have highlighted above. He said, “all things being equal I would rather have sand greens”. My response was OK then, while I certainly respect that opinion, if that were the case,” why do Merion, Oak Hill, Oakmont, Aronomink, Westchester, Ridgewood, Saucon Valley, and North Shore to name a few, all have XGD greens instead of  sand greens?” I kind of had him there. Obviously there is no silver bullet in this discussion, but let’s face it if cost and revenue loss is a deciding factor, then XGD wins this argument every time.

Cheers, Poor Old Dirt & Grass Farmer

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